CHARLESTON, W.Va. – House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, today said the aggressive work performed by lawmakers over the past two legislative sessions has once again been recognized nationally with the state remaining off of the American Tort Reform Association’s annual “Judicial Hellholes” list for the second year in a row.
“West Virginia’s continued improvement in the American Tort Reform Association’s annual report is a signal the bold steps the Legislature has taken to improve our state’s legal climate are working and drawing national attention,” Speaker Armstead said.
Since 2003, West Virginia had been near the top of the annual ranking of judicial systems that the association considered “most unfair” in their handling of civil litigation. Last year marked the first time since the report’s inception that West Virginia was not designated a “Judicial Hellhole.”
This year, following the continued reforms in the 2016 session, West Virginia has improved to the bottom of the association’s “Watch List” and stands ready to fall of the report altogether.
“Once perennial Judicial Hellhole West Virginia this year makes what optimists hope will be its last appearance in this report for many years to come, if not forever,” the report said.
“This is a sign that we are moving West Virginia in the right direction and placing our legal system more firmly within the mainstream throughout the country,” Speaker Armstead said. “We are committed to continuing to take bold action to make sure our judicial system is never again seen as negative or unfair.”
Over the past two years, the Legislature has passed several legal reform measures aimed at reducing the impact of frivolous lawsuit filings and bringing West Virginia within the legal mainstream.
Among the bills signed into law in 2015 were a measure to ensure that parties are required to pay only their fair share of damages based on their degree of fault, safeguards for property owners against civil actions from trespassers, non-partisan election of judges and a cap on punitive damages in civil actions.
During the 2016 session, lawmakers passed bills that prohibited the recovery of damages that occur while committing an unlawful act and created a process and guidelines for the Attorney General to use when hiring private attorneys on a contingency fee basis.###